The Concordia course addresses the UN Sustainable Development Goals


SDGs in the classroom

The new course, which started in September, gives students a better understanding of the SDGs and their implementation. It is taught by Peter Graham (GrDip 05, Cert 09, MA 10, MA 14), a lecturer in the college and the university’s School of Community and Public Affairs.

Graham was a natural candidate to lead the course. “For the past 15 years, my main research focus has been sustainability, so I was well positioned to lead the way,” he says.

Every week at Concordia’s 4E SPACE, guest speakers discuss one or two SDGs during the first half of the course, while Graham leads the discussion in the second half.

Among other guests, Grant spoke on SDG 6 – Clean Water; Ursula Eicker, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Smart, Sustainable and Resilient Cities and Communities, spoke on SDG 7 – Affordable and Clean Energy; and Tittler will discuss SDG 15 – Life on Land, in the final course.

“My goal has been to try to make students aware of the challenges of operationalizing goals and the fact that there are still a lot of barriers to overcome — and most of the barriers are cultural or even cognitive,” explains Graham.

For an assignment, students work in groups to map the relationships between the SDGs and particular segments of society; for example, the corporate world, the indigenous world, the one percent, the majority world, governments, the material world and the more than human world.

Graham recognizes the urgency of sustainability issues. “We are not on a path that is far from something that could last for the next century or so – we are actually on a path to get over a cliff,” he warns.

“Thinking about sustainability means re-examining everything we take for granted today.”

Halfway through the 13-week course, Graham has already seen a real improvement in students’ appreciation of the SDGs and sustainability in general. “I’m very happy with how deeply they think about the problem and the challenges,” he says.

“They’re in that age group where it’s their life, it’s their future, so they take it very seriously.”

Given current realities, the topic will only gain in relevance. “We plan to offer the course again next year and hopefully make it a permanent course,” Tittler reports.

Graham strongly believes that topics related to critical global issues — including sustainability and Indigenous reconciliation — should be taught to all university students.

“It doesn’t matter the degree, department or discipline,” he says. “You should have a basic understanding of the big challenges we face as a society today – and those are reconciliation and sustainability.”

Attend masterclasses via Concordia’s 4TH SPACE.

Learn more about Concordia’s Loyola Sustainability Research Center and Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability and the university’s commitment to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.


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